I’ve read in the news that eating a Mediterranean diet (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediterranean_diet) would be good for me…here’s what I read…
…ieri…oggi…domani… What to Believe?
Mediterranean diet: a diet of traditional Mediterranean countries, characterized especially by a high consumption of vegetables and olive oil and moderate consumption of protein, and thought to confer health benefits.
And I thought I read somewhere that the effects of such a diet would be a long and healthy life…or something similar. Well I’ve been living in a Mediterranean country…Italy…for over a year and I’m not sure what is real and what is ‘fake news’. I guess the good news is that I haven’t had a heart attack since I’ve been here…but it seems that I have experienced an ever expanding…stack of local recipes (copies upon request). Actually not having a car and walking everywhere has probably done more for my health than what I’ve been eating. Another advantage of being here long term is that I’ve been able to get over the gelato obsession. Now like the locals I scoff at the gelato swilling tourists in fowl weather and patiently wait for the warm days ahead to bring out the true flavors at my favorite gelateria.
Although, what could be more healthy than celery. If you look closely you can see it in the photo. Sure it is stuffed with ground veal and spices and smothered with a rich ragu sauce, but the base is still a stalk of celery! And its not like I don’t eat any fruit…see the strawberry in the bowl…its the red thing.
What I do believe is that living in Florence, Italy is every bit as exciting today as it has been for the 12 month we’ve lived here. Every day the adventure is renewed by the season or weather or what to have or where to go for dinner. The Florentines are wonderfully adept at lurching from season to season…one holiday to the next religious festa to the up coming national Liberation Day…each with a tradition (parade or sporting event) and a specialty food item (Colomba – a dove shaped cake for Easter). Having been here a year we are beginning to see the events of the City repeat…Coming soon to a piazza near you…Pasqua (Easter) and the Scoppio del Carro (Exploding Cart).
March started with the annual Taste of Firenze. A spectacular four day event bringing together food purveyors from every region of Italy. Hundreds of vendors handing out samples of their city or region’s food specialty…cheese…prosciutto…pasta…wine…pastry…olive oil…biscotti…and on and on. Once again we navigated the food halls with the Gambi family…Taste 2016 was the first outing they invited us to.
We did an overnight train trip to Venice so RoJean could experience an opera performance of la Boheme in la Fenice, Venice’s grand opera house. Opera not being my thing, I did tour la Fenice (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Fenice) in the afternoon and wandered the canals and streets after dark. La Scala in Milano…here we come…
In what may very well be the center of the universe for cantucci…Prato (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prato) is home to the shop of Antonio Mattei (http://www.antoniomattei.com/?_ga=1.198247407.1541260641.1491317664), where the finest biscotti have been made since 1858. Our friend, Silvia, being from Prato got us a tour of the entire process…not to mention samples right out of the oven.
Prato is a short 30 minute drive north of Firenze. From the middle ages it has been a wool and textile center for the region. Celebrating this industry is the modern Museo del Tessuto (http://www.museodeltessuto.it/).
Mid March brought…not the Ides if March and not St. Patrick’s Day (this is Italy)…but Giorno di Papa (St. Joseph’s Day) This is the Italian Father’s Day…Joseph being the father figure in Jesus’ life. A day or week celebrated by another pastry…frittelli (in the US we have zeppole, larger but similar). A fried dough morsel much like Munchkins of Dunkin Donut fame. Filled with crema or for the traditional purist (I’m talking about my friend, Francesco) unfilled, but still delicious. And no, you can’t eat just one.
Then there is an ‘only in Florence’ holiday…Capodanno Florentino (Florentine New Year)…up until 1750 this date was the start of the civil New Year. And sure enough…Florence brought it back. It is also the Catholic holiday, the Annunciation. And of course celebrated with a procession of the ‘men in tights’ to a church to be blessed and a small street fair with plenty of food stalls…Pig anyone? Porchetta (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porchetta) is a whole pig that is stuffed and roasted…very good). For more images from Capodanno Florentino 2017 check out my gallery https://joemessina.smugmug.com/PrivateGalleries/Italy/Capodanno-fiorentino/
Nothing says ‘Spring’ in Firenze like the return of…the tourists…and a few birds also. Last Spring…for the first 4 months that we were here…it was cold and rainy. We’ve been told that this Spring has been/is more normal…sunny, gradually warming days interspersed with the occasional, short storm…sometimes with a little thunder and lightning. If there is one thing we’ve learned…tourists are not deterred by the weather. There are certainly much fewer November thru February trying to find ‘David’ between pizza and gelato. Come March and the City ‘gates’ open wide…possibly coinciding with Spring break for many students and families. We’ve have once again learned to by-pass the City center when possible and try to co-enjoy the City of Firenze. Fortunately we have a great, big church in our back yard.
Turns out there are horses in Firenze…other than the ones hauling the tourists around the Center. So on a warm Spring Wednesday I invited myself to tag along with Anna Gambi (Silvia’s daughter) for her riding lesson. I appreciated the opportunity to practice my photography in a new (to me) venue. Another fun fact is that Anna’s instructor, Carmelo, the owner of the Equestrian Center, was Silvia’s instructor also when she was a teenager…and besides lessons and boarding horses, he has a few apartments to rent for those that do not want to be in the City (http://www.inoccioli.it/).
And then there is the day-to-day of living. We love our apartment in the quiet, residential north side of the historic center of Firenze and are especially appreciative of the friendship and caring we receive from our landlady, Silvia. So even if our language skills are progressing slowly…our confidence to get along is considerably higher than a year ago at this time. During those first few weeks we were not sure that we made a good decision to move to Italy. How do we do this (throw out the trash)…where do we get that…can we get there from here…can you please write that down…how much is that…? Now I can go to the grocery store (Essalunga) and order 300 grams of roast turkey (tre ette tacchino arrosto) at the deli counter, get a liter of whole milk (latte intero), make a stop at the butcher (macelleria) for a pork tenderloin (filetto di maiale) and find my way home…two or three times a week. Life is good.
In the year we have lived in Firenze we have only left the country three times…US, Germany and Greece. Over the next few weeks we are going back to Germany to visit RoJean’s sister Denise and her husband Brian in Wiesbaden. We will also spend a few days with my daughter, Karyn and her husband Will, since they have recently relocated to Germany for work and live near Denise.
Instead of spending Good Friday in church, we will be doing an overnight trip to Milano so we can experience the opera house, la Scala. I probably will take along my camera…just in case.
Easter Sunday brings us back to Firenze and the Scoppio del Carro (Exploding Cart) in the Piazza Duomo, but I think my experience last year was sufficient to last me a while. And so if the weather is good…maybe a day or two checking out the ‘seaside’ in the off season will be in order.
Have a Hoppity Easter…
Subscribe to TCR World via Email
Written by:Joe Messina